I’m tired of people mocking the 140 character limit on Twitter. And, to be honest, it’s a tell. I always know I’m dealing with a Twitter novice when the 140 limit comes up.
What can you say in just 140 characters? they ask, sometimes scoffing and rolling their eyes. To which I sometimes reply:
“Ask Emily Dickinson.”
Or, sometimes I respond as William Carlos Williams:
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
That’s 48 characters, including the stanza breaks. A lot has already been done in 140 characters or less, I argue.
Ok, fine! My colleagues might object. But that’s poetry, and we’re all biased towards novels and short stories.
“And world-class stories really can’t be told in just 140 characters.”
So declares the engraved billboard that’s bolted to one of the buildings on my new campus—the opinion of a member of the Full-Time English Faculty, one of the real professors.
What a place for a Twitter poet to land, I sighed.
Then, this crazy notion: maybe tweets, in the end, are just sentences. And maybe a series of tweets, arranged somehow—in a stream of some sort—maybe that would be just like a paragraph!
Maybe a skilled writer could learn to craft this “Twitter Stream,” to make the stream long enough, consistent enough, so that narrative arcs and characters could and would naturally emerge.
It would probably take years.
It would probably, at some point, take on a life of its own.
Amazing things happen when you take the time to fully participate in the Twitter culture, to grow an active following, to create a list of your closest community members—your tweeps—and support them as much as, more than, they support you.
There’s a lot more going on than 140 characters, I can assure you.